Remembering the Mill
I remember the Fieldcrest Mill and towns people I worked with. I was 2 when my family came to Fieldale in 1924 so I don't remember many details of how it was at that time. My Daddy was a mechanic and worked in the shop at the mill for about 10 years.
When I was older - about 11 - I remember going with my sister to ask for a job in the mill. She was 16 had just won a beauty contest and felt she was an adult. At that time they taxied the high schoolers to Martinsville for the rest of their education. She did not want to go and somehow talked Daddy into letting her get a job. The mill was the only place to get work then. The sewing room was the cleanest part of the mill so it was where she hoped to get work. The person to see was Mr. Ewell Sherrill who lived in the big white house at the corner of Second St. and Field Ave.
There was no employment office then. Later they had a small building just outside the main gate. This was about 1939 or '40 and Jimmie Rimmer was the employment officer. He was one responsible for Fieldale getting the swimming pools. My Memory goes back and forth so this may seem a little mixed.
Mr. Sherrill's smile I was to see many times because I also worked for him during the war. His frown I was to see a lot too. When he was displeased he would lower the brow of his right eye and just stand looking at you. He was always smoking as he climbed the steps to the sewing room (they called it) We would privately sing the song, Just gotta have another cigarette ... After he retired Sam Thomas was the super in the sewing room. He and his family lived on Merriman Road and his wife Emmith was my friend. The last I heard from her they lived in North Carolina and she was teaching school.
Some of the officals that I remember are J. Frank Wilson. He and his wife had one daughter, Fran, whom I saw in church. She wore a white fur coat and cap. Mr. Ripple came after Wilson, privately called Rip. About the only time I saw him was at the Fieldale Methodist Church. He would be with his wife and little girl Jo Ann. Later there was Mr. Purcell who lived on Dogwood Lane and Dave Simmons who lived on Route 609 near Merriman Road.
Rev. Bouldin was the Methodist preacher known for his walking to visit people all over the county and Fieldale. The Baptist preacher was Rev Sootes.
Back in the Sewing Room there was George Merriman, second shift boss, who chewed tobacco and spit a lot. He could really keep those machines going though. Anna his wife wrapped towels, Mary Copeland and Miss Bertia Hundley are some I remember who inspected. As the towels came up into the sewing room on the giant conveyer belt it was a man's job to cut the lengths and send they to the machines to be hemmed, then inspected, folded, tied in bundles of twelve, and wrapped. Mr William Merriman was the Super in the packing room and lived across the road from me. He was as steady as a rock and he drove a black Buick. His sister Mrs. Wilkerson wrapped towels along with six others, the ones I remember are Lucy Shelton Virginia Carmichael and Doris Stegall. They were all small people but could make those towels fly from the holding cart to the finished cart where they were taken down to the packing room on the elevator. There they were loaded on to a railroad side car for places unknown - with William Merriman supervising.
Can't forget Bill Hylton and his Dope Wagon. It was war time and he still had drinks, cookies, sandwiches. Seems like they used scrip tokens for money. Not sure ... some candy when he could get it. The Dope Wagon was owned by B. I. Atkins. Drinks and junk food. Everyone loved Bill.
Gertie Shaw - I think of her often about how she could keep the embroidery machine going full blast and tell a off-colored joke at the same time. She had the cruelest laugh you ever heard. She was a small person. Her husband sold furniture for Troxler's in Martinsville.
Kizzi Kelly was the hardest worker I saw while I worked. And Clara Tipton could inspect towels and fold them so fast she made the air around her cooler.
My job was a pie job. I inspected towels in the second corner. It was during the war now so we got a lot of over time which put me in the $18 per week bracket. I'd work for less because you know the war needed workers. My sister Hazel worked in what we called Huck. These were dish towels. She could see me across the room and make a sign – straighten your back! You look humped shouldered. I'd do as she said – for a while. Hazel worked at the mill over 30 years. Mary Francis Shaw the girl that tied the bundles was the best dresser and she was a good model too. I remember Gertrude Fulcher who's dresses were made from Dan River material checks, plaids ,solids you name it. She and her husband raised chickens and sold eggs on the side. Fannie Hundley raised peacocks on the side. Fannie always wanted to adopt my youngest daughter. So many nice people I loved. Never told them though; you know how it is. And I remember Ruby Perdue who is in the Nursing Home now. Years after, we were seniors, I went with Ruby on a bus trip to the Virginia State Fair. On the bus with us was Mr. Garrett who had dyed his hair red. We picked at him all the way with red headed jokes.
Mrs. Davis taught me to smock a dress during our lunch hour. We ate our sandwiches and did needle work. At that time she was the sweetest lady I knew outside my family. Her daughter and I were in school together and are still friends.
Then I met Cordie Simons after I quit work. She lived close to me. Her husband Dave was the supervisor at this time, they had four children. Her children and mine went to school together. About the only thing she did that I didn't was play bridge. Sometimes we would take off to Rocky Mount and buy material. We did a lot of sewing back then. She would drive all the way to George's Super market on the other side of Martinsville to buy bananas when they were 10 cents a pound cheaper than other stores - my, how we did love our cars. She was the smartest, most down to earth person in my acquaintance. She like most of the others are gone now but their names and places in our hearts are remembered by the few that are left.